July 4, 2009
The Problem Is the Wall
Ezra Klein recently moved from the American Prospect to the [depending on your perspective] loftier perch of the Washington Post. I’m guessing this has also gotten him better access to the halls of power; he seems to be snagging higher-profile interviews more often (e.g. Atul Gawande, Ron Wyden, Tom Daschle, Bernie Sanders).
But his heightened proximity to the legislative sausage factory might be having a depressing effect. Lately, he’s gotten more and more negative about the deficiencies of our government structure. Most of our biggest problems, he’s been saying, can’t really be pinned on individual actors like Obama or, say, Tom Harkin. They’re systemic.
To illustrate, he offers a nice fable:
Imagine a group of men sitting in a dim prison cell. One of the walls has a window. Beyond that wall, they know they’ll find freedom. One of the men spends years picking away at it with a small knife. The others eventually tire of him. That’s an idiotic approach, they say. You need more force. So one of the other men spends his days ramming the bed frame into the wall. Eventually, he exhausts himself. The others mock his hubris. Another tries to light the wall on fire. That fails as well. The assembled prisoners laugh at the attempt. And so it goes. But the problem is that there is no answer to their dilemma. The problem is not their strategy. It’s the wall.